Around 19,000 farmers cultivate 85,000 tonnes of fish in 50,000 ponds in Rajshahi, which is 32,000 tonnes more than the demand for fish in the district
Fish farmers in Rajshahi are faced with huge losses as the volume of their sales and the price of fish have dropped significantly due to the coronavirus crisis.
Rajshahi is famous for transporting large live carp fish to Dhaka. Fish farmers in the area claim that in normal times they meet 80 percent of the demand for carp in the country.
The Department of Fisheries said around 19,000 farmers cultivate 85,000 tonnes of fish in 50,000 ponds in Rajshahi, which is 32,000 tonnes more than the demand for fish in the district.
Farmers sent around 150 trucks of fish to Dhaka every day on average when the situation was normal, but now it has dropped to only 20 trucks per day. Each truck carried 700kg to 900kg fish.
Eshraf Ali, a fish farmer from Durgapur in Rajshahi, said he has been suffering losses as he could not sell any fish in the last one week.
Eshraf, who cultivates fish in ponds sprawling over 400 bighas of land, said, "In normal times, I sent one truck of fish to Dhaka every day, but there is no buyer in Dhaka now. I have to sell my products at lower prices whenever I can find a buyer."
"There are too many obstacles on the way to and from Dhaka. So truck drivers are not willing to go there," he said.
Eshraf noted that he had to spend thousands of taka every day on fish feed, medicine and water. Fish feed and medicine have become scarce recently, so they cost more now, he said.
Another fish farmer, Shamsher Ali, said, "I have two ponds on 150 bighas of land. The fish in 60 bighas of the ponds are now mature for selling, but I cannot sell them."
"I had a plan to sell these fish on the occasion of Pahela Baishakh. I sell fish worth Tk10 lakh on the first day of the Bangla new year. During the four to five days around that day I usually sold fish worth Tk50 - 60 lakh. But in the last two days I sold
3,000kg of fish, counting a loss of Tk50 per kilogram of fish," said Shamsher.
He also said he had to sell the fish because their livers get blocked after a certain time and so they cannot eat anymore, which in turn halts their growth.
Bachchu Mia, another farmer from Durgapur, said, "We have to irrigate ponds more during the month of Chaitra (one of the months of summer), otherwise the pond will dry up. Despite this reality, the Barind Multipurpose Development Authority has banned the irrigation of ponds."
"My ponds on 60 bighas of land have dried up as I could not set up an electricity connection. The power office was closed due to the shutdown over the coronavirus. On the one hand I could not sell the fish I cultivated, and on the other hand, my ponds dried up," said the despondent farmer.
Ainal Huq, another fish farmer, fears that conditions will not improve for fish farmers even if the coronavirus situation returns to normal.
"The prices of fish will fall because all the farmers will place their products in the market at the same time," said Ainal.
Alok Kumar Shaha, a fisheries officer in the district, said that sales of fish have declined recently and if the situation persists the farmers will face losses.